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WhatsApp leads digital accessibility in India

WhatsApp has been named India’s most accessible app for persons with disabilities in a report titled “Making the Digital Ecosystem Disabled Friendly,”. The report by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, evaluated the accessibility of ten of the most popular apps across various categories, including messaging, online payments, transport, e-commerce, and food delivery.

WhatsApp was the only app rated as “highly accessible” based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which serve as the global benchmark for determining the disabled-friendliness of a website. The other apps included in the report were PhonePe, PayTM, Swiggy, Zomato, Amazon, Flipkart, Telegram, Uber, and Ola. The apps were rated as having “high accessibility,” “moderate accessibility,” or “low accessibility” based on the number of WCAG success criteria at level A compliance level.

Rahul Bajaj, co-author of the report and Senior Associate Fellow at Vidhi, stated that “apps and websites have enormous potential to empower the disabled. If they are not designed with their needs in mind, however, they can replicate the barriers the disabled otherwise face.” Bajaj hopes that the report will serve as a positive impetus for developers to improve accessibility in their digital products and services.

WhatsApp said in a statement that it has invested in continuous product innovations over the years to make the app more inclusive and simple, making it one of the first digital gateways for millions of Indians. The app has also emerged as a powerful tool for scaling social impact across underserved communities, especially at the grassroots level.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the use of technology, making the need for digital products and services to become more inclusive and disabled-friendly even more significant. In order to create a truly inclusive digital ecosystem, websites and apps must ensure that they are designed in compliance with WCAG or Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) standards, according to the authors of the report. CNBCTV18

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